Duathlons, per the oft quoted Marmite analogy, are hated by some and loved by others. They used to be seen as winter racing for triathletes or a poor swimmer’s version of a triathlon. But not anymore!
Alex Yee is living proof you can be a duathlete and a triathlete. Duathlon is a sport in its own right and it will test the hardest athlete to the limit… it’s also an outlet to just go and have some fun when it’s too cold to swim.
A duathlon is a run, bike, run format. Usually the second run is half the distance of the first. So, for instance, a sprint distance will be 5km/20km/2.5km and a standard distance duathlon will be 10km/40km/5km on the road. Off road duathlons are usually nearer to a sprint distance, with either a mountain bike or cyclocross bike being suitable for this terrain.
Duathlons are hard, and there is no avoiding the fact. So to take them on, you need to adjust your training, transition techniques and kit list.
If you are a regular triathlete you need to keep on top of your swimming in meantime. It’s a useful piece of training for specific muscle sets, but also if you stop during duathlon season you will find swimming a hideous uphill struggle to pick up again when triathlons start again in the spring.
You will need to learn to embrace bricks sessions. Since you are training in autumn through to spring you need to resist looking for weather related excuses to get out of them; learn how to be creative and just get on with it!
If the weather is bad, use a turbo or rollers, or go to the gym for instance. The brick is not just about changing the way you use your legs, but is about changing shoe and kit practice.
Start with a block of five times doing 7 minutes on the bike and 3 minutes run with no rest in between. This is a good beginner’s set and for your first set, you need to keep your pace above steady.
Next try going harder on the runs, then the time after go harder on the bike, then by your fourth set go hard but sustainable throughout.
Once you can do this, vary the times of the blocks and perhaps experiment with pyramiding them.
Bricks are the time to work out your shoe changes too, assuming you will be riding clipped for the bike. A smart move is to have two pairs of running shoes so that the second pair is open and clean at T2. This is an especially good idea in an off-road race… which moves us onto thinking about kit.
The kit list for a duathlon is pretty straightforward – for instance there is no need to tell you that you will need running and cycling shoes and a bike! - but there might be things in the list below you haven’t considered.
At HUUB we also have a special cycle bundle of toe covers and a cycle jersey with cycle styling, but lightweight fabric for easy running and sweat wicking.
To test out your kit combinations so that you find something that suits you, try wearing them in different combinations until you find what works for you. Bear in mind that you will get hot on the first run, and then could get very cold on the bike, or wet, or probably both so what you wear at different stages of the race could alter dramatically in layering.
When the appointed hour arrives, take everything with you on race day as it is no good sat in a cupboard at home. And as another top tip, stash everything in a dry bag at transition, because the last thing you want at the end of your race is wet clothes.
Come Monday morning after the race, get yourself down to the pool and get your legs working to recover. Use a kickboard and mix up free and breaststroke lengths. As much as we all hate kick sets, we promise you that you will feel the benefit.
Get in the pool regularly, using a pullbuoy when you have destroyed your legs in a hard session. Swimming will mean you stay conditioned over the whole body, and you will maintain some core strength and flexibility. If you drop your swimming, you will fall into the trap of only working your legs and will end up carrying on when they need a rest or are injured.
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